The standoff between King Abdullah II and his half brother, Prince Hamzah, wasn’t just palace intrigue. It hinted at Saudi meddling and highlighted wider tensions within Jordan’s complex society.
Edraak, an online education non-profit, exposed the private information of thousands of students after uploading student data to an unprotected cloud storage server, apparently by mistake.
The non-profit, founded by Jordan’s Queen Rania and headquartered in the kingdom’s capital, was set up in 2013 to promote education across the Arab region. The organization works with several partners, including the British Council and edX, a consortium set up by Harvard, Stanford, and MIT.
In February, researchers at U.K. cybersecurity firm TurgenSec found one of Edraak’s cloud storage servers containing at least tens of thousands of students’ data, including spreadsheets with students’ names, email addresses, gender, birth year, country of nationality, and some class grades.
TurgenSec, which runs Breaches.UK, a site for disclosing security incidents, alerted Edraak to the security lapse. A week later, their email was acknowledged by the organization but the data continued to spill. Emails seen by TechCrunch show the researchers tried to alert others who worked at the organization via LinkedIn requests, and its partners, including the British Council.
Two months passed and the server remained open. At its request, TechCrunch contacted Edraak, which closed the servers a few hours later.
In an email this week, Edraak chief executive Sherif Halawa told TechCrunch that the storage server was “meant to be publicly accessible, and to host public course content assets, such as course images, videos, and educational files,” but that “student data is never intentionally placed in this bucket.”
“Due to an unfortunate configuration bug, however, some academic data and student information exports were accidentally placed in the bucket,” Halawa confirmed.
“Unfortunately our initial scan did not locate the misplaced data that made it there accidentally. We attributed the elements in the Breaches.UK email to regular student uploads. We have now located these misplaced reports today and addressed the issue,” Halawa said.
The server is now closed off to public access.
It’s not clear why Edraak ignored the researchers’ initial email, which disclosed the location of the unprotected server, or why the organization’s response was not to ask for more details. When reached, British Council spokesperson Catherine Bowden said the organization received an email from TurgenSec but mistook it for a phishing email.
Edraak’s CEO Halawa said that the organization had already begun notifying affected students about the incident, and put out a blog post on Thursday.
Last year, TurgenSec found an unencrypted customer database belonging to U.K. internet provider Virgin Media that was left online by mistake, containing records linking some customers to adult and explicit websites.
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The government has accused King Abdullah II’s half brother, Prince Hamzah, of undermining national security, and arrested several of his associates.
The country’s royal family said Prince Hamzah had now pledged his loyalty to King Abdullah II. The government banned news outlets and social media users from discussing the rare public show of conflict.
In a recording posted on Twitter, Prince Hamzah bin Hussein said that he would not rein in his criticism of the king, deepening a royal rift.
A royal rift laid bare. Key figures arrested. Rumors of a failed coup attempt. An intense bout of palace intrigue has knocked Jordan’s image as a reliable bulwark in a turbulent part of the world.
Those arrested included a member of the royal family and a longtime confidante of King Abdullah II. It is a rare episode of political intrigue involving the normally stable kingdom.
Their pain has been mostly hidden for the last 10 months. But over the first week of Derek Chauvin’s murder trial, it spilled tearfully into the open as witnesses testified to their shared trauma.
“As long as women are absent from the labor market, they are absent from the public sphere,” one advocate said.
The popular uprisings of 2011 mostly failed, but they gave the region a taste for democracy that continues to whet an appetite for change.
SoleSavy, a community built around buying hot sneakers and related items that are increasingly hard to acquire at retail, raised $2M in a round that closed late last year. SoleSavy is a group of communities that is currently mostly hosted on Slack.
SoleSavy’s co-founders Dejan Pralica and Justin Dusanj founded the company in 2018 as a paid community for collectors and enthusiasts seeking pairs that were getting snapped up by bots or resellers. Pralica previously co-founded Kicks Deals, a sneaker shipping site focused on less than retail pricing and Dusanj is the former Director of Operations at New Age Sports, a Nike retailer.
SoleSavy’s $2M party raise includes investment from Panache Ventures, Jason Calacanis’ LAUNCH, Turner Novak, Ben Narasin, Morning Brew’s Alex Liberman and Austin Rief, Tiny Capital, Wesley Pentz (yes, Diplo), Matthew Hauri aka Yung Gravy, Ryan Holmes, Roham Gharegozlou and Bedrock Capital.
SoleSavy has built an engaged community (several communities, really) around the ebb and flow of the sneakerhead consumer universe (SCU). I just coined that, by the way, please make it a thing. The SCU is an interesting place filled with fascinating characters and behaviors. Every once in a while it pokes its head into the mainstream, whether via a documentary, a hot shoe release or a stron-garm robbery attempt. In 2021, I believe that we will see more of this world breaking out of its box into the larger consumer consciousness.
The trends that are leading us to this place are varied, but some of them have been front and center during the pandemic, as a decade’s worth of consumer behavioral change has occurred in the space of a few months. You only have to look at how hard it was to get a PS5 or Xbox One X or a GPU for the holiday season, and how many services, Twitter accounts and monitor groups rose up to try to help people do that to see what the future of shopping looks like.
I joked about not being able to buy butter without a bot, but it’s not far from the truth — nearly every category of goods has had its own shortages over the last year. But the mother of all limited goods category for decades now has been sneakers.
Every release is hotly anticipated and eagerly purchased by people looking for the latest shoe. The massive increase in interest in the sneaker as the marquee desirable item and the unwillingness of the biggest manufacturers to lose the hype halo has led to each drop being harder to get than the last. Second-market startups like StockX and GOAT have sprung up to facilitate those who don’t mind paying 30%-200% premiums on each release.
The solution for many lies in the countless ‘cook groups’ that help buyers anticipate demand and stock for each drop and plan to purchase them on release date.
SoleSavy’s function is ostensibly to do just that: help regular enthusiasts to strategize and execute the release day cop. But beyond that, Pralica says that the group has come to be about the community of people around those shoes more than the purchase itself.
SoleSavy is at its heart a slack group (a series of groups actually that act as cohorts, leading people through the tiers of community that the team has built) with rooms that help people to understand what’s happening in sneakers, get the releases and commiserate around the culture. Pralica says that they’ve built that community out slowly (the waitlist for the group grows by 400 people per day) in order to maintain a positive atmosphere and to properly onboard new people to the group. They also have an app that drives push notifications and a podcast.
That positive community vibe is what Pralica says is SoleSavy’s long-term focus and differentiating factor that keeps the 4,000 members across the US and Canada interacting with the group on a nearly daily basis.
I’ve been in a dozen or so different groups focused on buying large quantities of each release to re-sell over the years and many of them are, at best, rowdy and at worst toxic. That’s an environment that SoleSavy wanted to stay away from, says Pralica. Instead, SoleSavy tries to court those who want to buy and wear the shoes, trade them and yes, maybe even resell personal pairs eventually to obtain and wear another grail.
Though cook groups have been the ‘core’ of the Discord and Slack-based communities in the sneaker world, other iterations have been booming too. Entrepreneurial communities based in the same hustle principles like Tyler Blake’s In This Economy and fanbase-focused groups around popular streamers top the Disboard. And bets on social token outfits like Zora are also focused on community as the glue that holds together a user base.
Community is the future of all commerce, whether you’re looking for a specific product (see the huge PS5 monitors) or want to steep yourself in a particular universe of product interest (the SCU). The trends that I’ve been seeing all point to 2021 being the year that community-driven purchasing breaks out of the underbelly of fandom and becomes officially “a thing”.
SoleSavy has been experimenting with a variety of ways to keep the community knit going including live chats, get togethers and even a handsome custom community-designed Jordan 1. These efforts have driven the previously bootstrapped company to some impressive early numbers. Pralica says that SoleSavy is currently profitable, with $1.5M ARR on $33 monthly subscriptions plus affiliate revenue and that their DAUs are at 90% — an engagement number that would make any retailer salivate.
Though the funding closed (very) late last year I thought that this would be a great kick off story for the year ahead. Though SoleSavy seems to have a really compelling story and a great growth curve, I think they’re at the tip of a very large trend, one that we will see continue to build throughout the year.
Some of our international journalists have gone to great lengths trying to bring a taste of home to their new locations. But it hasn’t always worked out.
While the French have supported their government’s crackdown, it has opened the country to criticism that its complicated relationship with French Muslims has taken an ugly turn.
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Unilaterally taking territory the Palestinians have counted on for a state could cement Benjamin Netanyahu’s legacy. It could also destabilize the region.
A conservative American commentator on Middle Eastern affairs gives six reasons to believe that taking over Palestinian territory would harm both U.S.-Israel relations and Israel’s status as the Jewish state.
In Jordan, an unregulated microloan industry offers easy money. But with no way to repay loans, many women end up buried in debt, or in prison.